The Tiger Strikes Again

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

"Calvin and Hobbes" was such an exuberant, strange and metaphysical realm you wonder how it ever got shoveled into a comic strip.

You remember this when you look at "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," a 1,456-page art-book epic of every panel ever published: It was original by sheer force of personality. Calvin sounded like a 6-year-old psychotic on Ritalin one day and a Yale lit grad the next. He was id off the leash. He wondered what was worthwhile in life if death was inevitable. ("Seafood," answered Hobbes, his imaginary tiger friend. Wait -- was Hobbes real or not? Debatable.)

Calvin battled blobs of oatmeal and the bathtub suds monster. He and Hobbes hurtled downhill in their wagon and set out for the Yukon. He turned himself into a Tyrannosaurus rex , Calvin the Human Insect, Calvin the Bug, Captain Napalm, Stupendous Man and Spaceman Spiff.

In the middle of class, Calvin's teacher suddenly turns into a pig-snouted monster! The drooling blob demands attention and homework!

"Chew electric death, snarling cur!" Spiff howls, blasting her face off with his Atomic Napalm Neutralizer!

He was known to wear little rocket ship underpants. He feared nothing but the babysitter. Also the dark.

The strip ran from 1985 to 1995. Thirty million people have bought earlier collections of the strip, but as of today you can buy it all in one pop. It will set you back $150, but the three-volume, glossy-papered tome finally gives proper appreciation and display to creator Bill Watterson's efforts, the kind of size and color quality that he waged such epic battles for with newspapers and syndicates before retiring into silence at age 37, tired of the fray, wary of drifting into the bankrolls of mediocrity.

Flip open a page here:

"I want a grenade launcher, Mom. When's Christmas?" Calvin barks in one panel.

"What do you think is the meaning of true happiness?" he asks Hobbes in another. "Is it money, cars and women? Or is it just money and cars?"

Here comes that cute girl from class! Calvin: "Hey, Susie Derkins, is that your face or is a possum stuck in your collar?"

All 10 years gone now.

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